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Divorce Based On Irreconcilable Differences—What Does That Mean?

When you want to get a divorce in California, you need to provide a reason for ending your marriage. However, the reason does not need to involve fault. You don’t have to prove someone did something wrong. You can request a no-fault divorce on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences.”

What does this mean and how do you prove it? As a legal team with over 300 years of combined experience protecting the interests of clients during and after divorce, we have seen a wide range of situations that qualify. In this post, we will explain what irreconcilable differences are in a legal sense and the effect of using these differences as the grounds for your divorce.

Looking at the Statute

To determine legal obligations, it is usually necessary to look at both statutes governing an issue and the way that the courts have interpreted those statutes. With regard to the grounds for divorce, Section 2310 of the California Family Code specifies that there are only two reasons a court can grant dissolution of marriage, which is the official term for divorce. A spouse who wants a divorce must either request a dissolution based on “irreconcilable differences” or “permanent legal incapacity.” Since most divorces take place between spouses who are legally competent and coherent, that means that most divorces in California are based on irreconcilable differences.

The statutory section that lists irreconcilable differences as one of two grounds for divorce describes these differences as factors which “have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage.” In the next statutory section, lawmakers further explain that “[i]rreconcilable differences are those grounds which are determined by the court to be substantial reasons for not continuing the marriage and which make it appear that the marriage should be dissolved.”

Neither of these descriptions is very specific. So, to discover what irreconcilable differences are in real life, it is helpful to look at some examples from the courts.

What are Irreconcilable Differences?

The term irreconcilable differences as interpreted in California can include a wide range of circumstances. Essentially anything that can justify ending a marriage can be considered irreconcilable differences.

Some examples include:

  • Disagreements over spending or debt
  • Loss of trust
  • Religious differences
  • Excessive conflict
  • Inadequate communication between spouses
  • Infidelity
  • Disagreement on parenting issues
  • Physical separation due to work
  • Intimacy issues
  • Disagreements over family matters
  • Too much focus on work over personal life

Basically, if you can articulate a reason that you want a divorce, then you can show that you have irreconcilable differences that justify a divorce. You don’t actually need to prove those differences to the court—you just need to tell the court truthfully that such reasons exist. Even if your spouse believes the difficulties can be resolved and disagreements reconciled, if you do not, you can still be granted a divorce.

What Happens When You Divorce on Grounds of Irreconcilable Differences?

One party will start the divorce process when their attorney files a divorce petition in court and legally serves the official paperwork on the other spouse. That party then has a chance to file a legal response.

Both partners will be required to share financial information so that decisions can be made about classifying and dividing property, alimony, child support, and other issues. If your spouse does not want a divorce, they may try to delay the process or refuse to provide information, so your attorney may need to use legal discovery tools to gain the important information.

With that information, attorneys for each spouse can negotiate agreements on all the issues involved. If they can’t reach a mutually agreeable solution on some issues (or any issues) then they will present information to enable the judge to make a decision. Even in a “no-fault” divorce, one spouse can try to bring up bad behavior on the part of the other spouse to try to gain an advantage. It is important to share information honestly with your attorney so that your legal advocate is prepared to make the best arguments to support your goals for property classification, alimony, custody, and other issues.

Experienced Divorce Advocates Work to Secure the Best Possible Outcome in Divorce

At Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC, we know how to leverage our extensive knowledge and experience into persuasive arguments to gain your objectives in divorce. Irreconcilable differences can make it challenging for spouses to develop mutually acceptable terms for their divorce, but we know how to facilitate productive conversations and negotiate advantageous agreements to achieve a beneficial outcome without unnecessary delays. For a confidential consultation to discuss your needs, call us at  855-426-9111 or contact us online today.

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